Historical Connections in Mathematics

Frank J. Swetz, reviewer

Historical Connections in Mathematics: Resources for Using History of Mathematics in the Classroom , 3 vols. Wilbert Reimer and Luetta Reimer: vol 1, 1992, 103 pp. ISBN1-881431-35-5: vol II, 1993, 118 pp. ISBN 1-881431-38X; vol III, 1995, 103 pp. ISBN1-881431-49-5, paper reproducible, $16.95/vol, AIMS  Educational Foundation, P.O. Box 8120, Fresno, CA 93747-8120, www.aimsedu.org/


Designed to enrich mathematics teaching in grades 4-10, each volume in this series stands alone and follows the same format.  All books contain ten chapters; each chapter devoted to a particular historical personality: Euclid, Fibonacci, Maria Agnesi, George Polya, etc.  A portrait introduces the person, followed by a brief historical sketch of their life and work, including some notable quotes and anecdotes.  This concise but informative introduction is then followed by several, one page, learning activities.  Illustrations are sharp and clear and the worksheets are readily reproducible.  The activities have been collected from various sources and rephrased within the appropriate historical contexts. Their selection and presentation make them appealing and classroom useful.  While the discussions span cultures, gender and chronological time periods, they are all within a western context emphasizing the Ancient Greece to Europe evolution of mathematical thought.  The only “nonwestern” mathematician considered is the Indian genius, Ramanujan, a product of the British colonial education system.  It would have been nice to have also seen some consideration given to the traditional mathematics of individuals such as: Liu Hui, 3rd century, China; Brahmagupta, 6th century, India or Omar Khayyam, 11th century, Persia.


Despite this cultural shortcoming, these books provide a valuable and easily accessible resource in the history of mathematics for any teacher.  I recommend their use.


Frank J. Swetz, Professor Emeritus,The Pennsylvania State University